While it's easy to get caught up in talking about the latest and greatest in high-end networking hardware, there's been another quieter technological revolution happening in networking; A major renaissance in small business hardware which is suitable for startups, SMBs, or even home\garage offices.
Previously, a startup on a budget would probably have to buy off-the-shelf products, possibly even plain consumer-grade hardware. Besides not giving them the services and reliability a business needs, this would also cause greater problems down the line. Eventually, if their venture succeeded, they'd have to throw all of it out and start over from scratch with business-grade equipment.
In recent years, however, that's all changed. The maturation of networking has meant a big boom in low-end hardware, allowing businesses to hit the ground running with a modern network architecture which can then scale up as they grow. So today, we wanted to take a look at the entry-level Meraki MX64 firewall, then compare it against another popular SMB security device, the Dell Sonicwall Soho.
This model is the entry-level version of Meraki's firewalls, and intended solely for smaller ventures. It's recommended for a maximum of 50 users, but with a throughput of only 250Mbps, it's probably not a good idea to try to push that limit. In reality, it's only going to be suitable for a single small office, clinic, or other similar location without acting as a bottleneck on the entire network.
Out of the box, with a basic license, it is simple -but highly effective- firewall. Like all Meraki products, it integrates directly into the unified Meraki dashboard, and is exceptionally easy to set up and administrate. The only extra features it includes are IPSec-based VPN protections, and some identity-based configuration options.
However, things get more interesting once you start talking about the advanced security license. Unlike most Meraki products, there are two potential license paths for their security appliances. As we've discussed in the past, even though it's about 2x the cost of the basic license, the advanced security license adds so much functionality that it's going to be worth it for almost everyone buying Meraki security devices.
With the advanced license, you also get:
- Intrusion detection and prevention
- Anti-virus and anti-phishing services
- Advanced Malware Protection
- Geography-based firewall rules
- And content filtering for browsing, searches, and YouTube
Those first three would be of most concern to a smaller business. With the advanced license, the Meraki MX gives them a superior security suite that protects from most major threats out there. And, of course, all the various anti-malware systems will update automatically, ensuring full coverage without administrative oversight.
It's worth mentioning there are a couple other low-end Meraki options here. Those with WiFi networks would want to look at the MX64W, which is the same as the MX64 except with 802.11ac support. And the smallest of offices might be interested in Meraki Z1 teleworker gateway. While technically intended as a single-person telecommuting device, it's fully-featured enough to support a <5 person startup and it's downright dirt cheap to purchase and license.
The Meraki MX64 vs The Dell Sonicwall Soho
Out of the box, the Sonicwall Soho is similar to the MX with an advanced security license, but with a few upgrades. It has a slightly higher throughput - 300Mbps vs 250- as well as more 1G copper ports for direct connections. Like the MX 64, it supports VPN connections, as well as including built-in anti-malware systems. It also claims to support 250 connections, but 250 people divided by 300Mbps makes that a theoretical maximum at best.
It also has a lower base price than the Meraki lineup, when licensing is taken into consideration. However, there's a big caveat here. That's only true if the users are disinterested in receiving extended warranties or technical support. If one purchases the full Dell service package, the prices become roughly equivalent. Meraki licensing includes full technical support, as well as lifetime hardware warranty support, something Dell doesn't offer.
Dell products also don't have the same cloud-functionality and ease-of-use of Meraki. The Sonicall will require more personal attention to keep running properly. Also, in our experience, the anti-malware systems of Meraki simply work better and provide better coverage, because the cloud system allows them to collectively analyze all threats seen by all their users.
Still, for a small office that's not planning major expansions any time soon, the Sonicwall Soho is still a quality firewall which would undoubtedly serve them well until it was time to upgrade to a more capable piece of hardware.
Need More Assistance?
There are a lot of options in lower-end networking appliances these days! For a full consultation on your options, based on your plans for the future, contact Hummingbird Networks today!